September 2020 Project INCLUDE FINAL .pdf
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Author: Peterson, Barbara K
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Project INCLUDE is an NIH-funded grant awarded to our team to characterize the hearing abilities of individuals
with Down syndrome and identify factors that may improve speech recognition in challenging environments.
A major aim of Project INCLUDE is to determine what skills are important for successful listening in background
noise for individuals with Down syndrome. Our goal is to help families, teachers, and therapists prepare
individuals with Down syndrome to reach their full potential.
IN THIS ISSUE
• Talking to kids about Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Information about the COVID-19 can be frightening and cause people, especially children, to feel unsafe.
Parents today must be increasingly diligent about monitoring and supervising the information their children
are able to access.
• The acoustic effects of face masks
The consistent use of face masks is one of the most effective strategies for reducing the spread of COVID-19,
including in academic settings. This infographic shows the effect that different types of masks have on spoken
• Barb’s Book Corner
In this feature, we highlight some of our favorite books.
• Remote research opportunities
Boys Town Research Department is now using virtual research appointments to reduce the risk of potential
viral transmission of COVID-19. You can participate in research studies from the comfort of your home. We will
be contacting families who have participated in Project INCLUDE and inviting you to consider being part of
our remote study.
Talking to Kids About Coronavirus (COVID-19) adapted from a Boys Town Contributor
The first steps in protecting children from being overwhelmed by news about COVID-19 include setting boundaries
and limits regarding their exposure to information and working to make sure they have access to age appropriate
information. That might mean parents are not watching the news during dinner time with their young children. Or,
when they have the news on, the children are playing in another room.
There will be times when children have access to or are exposed to information that is frightening and makes them
feel unsafe. Parents can do a couple of things to help their children cope with and manage such information:
1. Parents are encouraged to keep conversations about significant news events, like COVID-19, within the context
of adult conversation. Be careful not to talk about the situation in front of your children in an alarmed or
2. Parents are encouraged to ask their children if they have questions about what they heard or if they would like
to talk about what they heard When children want to talk, pay attention to their questions and answer the
questions asked. Be careful not to go beyond the question or provide extraneous information that may serve to
confuse or frighten your children. Keep the answers simple and short.
3. Let your children know in a confident and matter of fact manner that they are safe.
4. Parents are encouraged to make sure the news does not occupy their attention, distracting them from
attending to their children and typical routines. Parents may have to wait until the children are asleep or
occupied in a safe manner before pursing further information and conversation about the event.
5. If parents feel kids are overly concerned or they are having problems dismissing the news, have them think
about others’ problems.
The acoustic effects of face masks
Facemasks are an effective strategy for helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, they can reduce the volume
of speech when worn. The illustration below shows recordings of the same speech signal spoken when wearing 1) no
mask, 2) a fabric mask, 3) a Level 1 surgical mask, 4) The Communicator™ mask, and 5) The Clear Mask™. Even though
some masks, like The Clear Mask™, seem to block quite a bit of sound, it is important to keep in mind that many
individuals with hearing loss use facial cues and lip reading to support spoken communication. Talk to your
educators about the types of masks they are using and the consequences the masks might have on your child’s ability
to understand spoken speech.
Sounds in this frequency region are important for speech.
Barb’s Book Corner!
Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding
of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to
understand written words. Even after children learn to read by themselves, it's still important
for you to read aloud together.
Gardening is one of our favorite pastimes! During
this time of year our gardens are filled with insect
visitors, like this monarch butterfly caterpillar we
found walking upside down on a leaf!
In honor of this little guy, our book
feature for this issue is The Very Hungry
Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. Follow the
adventures of this multi-legged friend as
he eats his way cover to cover!
What are your favorite books??
Remote research: Project INCLUDE comes to you!
COVID-19 has changed the way we approach many activities and research is no exception. We have been working
hard this summer to be able to bring Project INCLUDE to you. The general set-up is the same as it was before COVID19: you will see the same familiar faces and do many of the same types of activities!
This research is conducted via Cisco WebEx, a secure software platform used by hospitals for telehealth
appointments, including Boys Town National Research Hospital. This software works best when downloaded to your
computer and accessed with Google Chrome. (Specific instructions are sent if you sign-up to participate.)
The study will have three ‘appointments.’ Given the newness of this type of testing and the potential for
unanticipated technological difficulties, we recommend allowing an hour to 1.5 hours for each appointment.
1) The first appointment will be with Barb Peterson and you will complete consents and questionnaires (your
child would only need to participate for approximately 15 minutes).
2) Kayla Samuelson, who is a speech language pathologist, will conduct the second appointment with your child
and that will include speech/language testing, problem solving, and memory testing. You will need to play an
active role in helping your child understand and participate in the tasks.
3) The third appointment will be with researchers from the Human Auditory Development Lab and will include
tests of hearing sensitivity and speech-in-noise understanding. We will bring the needed equipment to your
home using contactless drop-off and pick-up procedures.
If you and your child might be interested in participating in this study, we would be happy to answer any questions or
address concerns you may have before we schedule your appointment You will be paid $15.00 per hour in electronic
Amazon gift cards emailed to you at the conclusion of the study.
Questions? Interested? Contact Barb Peterson Barbara.Peterson@boystown.org (531-355-5031)
Thank you for your involvement in Project INCLUDE! Your contribution to the team makes a difference!
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